Posted by: Naomi Baltuck | September 5, 2018

Dandelions and Other Foreigners — Writing Between the Lines

A friend said to Hodja Nasruddin, “Look at all these dandelions! I’ve tried pulling them, poisoning them, starving them, digging them out by the root. Nothing works. I am at my wit’s end!” “That’s a shame,” said the Hodja. “They are not a problem for me.” “Really? Please tell me your secret, my friend!” “It […]

via Dandelions and Other Foreigners — Writing Between the Lines

Advertisements
Posted by: Naomi Baltuck | September 1, 2018

Beam Me Out of the Closet, Scotty!

Writing Between the Lines

Okay, true confession.  Only a handful of you know my closet is crammed with Star Trek gadgets like my Borg Cube piggy bank, my Star Trek sound effects keychain, and plastic pointed ears.  By the age of sixteen I had attended my first Star Trek Convention, and knew every classic Trek episode by name and by heart.  When I left for college, Star Trek stayed home.  Then life, career, and family caught up with me.

But Star Trek left its mark.  As a kid I watched a lot of junk on TV, hardly noticing the difference between good and bad writing.  Well, that’s not quite true.  I knew all the writing on Gilligan’s Island stank, but watched it anyway.  I was fourteen when I noticed that the Star Trek reruns I was watching ran the gamut in quality.  Most were fine, some shone brilliantly and others fell flat.  I began…

View original post 352 more words

Posted by: Naomi Baltuck | August 25, 2018

A Match Made in Hell

 

Are you familiar with The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Anderson?  It’s a tragic tale about a child trapped in a world of poverty and abuse, hunger and homelessness…

On New Year’s Eve, someone steals her ill-fitting shoes, so the little girl wanders barefoot through the snow, trying to sell matches to uncaring people hurrying home to warm houses and holiday feasts.  No one has a farthing or even a second glance for the unfortunate waif.  If she goes home having sold no matches, her father will beat her.  To keep the cold at bay, she huddles against a wall and strikes her matches, one at a time. In each tiny flame she sees visions: a warm stove, an elegant feast, a Christmas tree lit by candles…  

Then her dead grandmother, the only person who ever treated her with kindness, appears to the shivering child, and carries her soul off to Heaven. The next morning, the strangers who walked past her the night before discover the little match girl’s icy corpse, clutching the burnt-out matches in her frozen fingers.  Too late they feel a twinge of pity.  The end.

As a child, I hated that story.  I was appalled that grownups could look away from a child’s suffering, without lifting a finger to help.  Why would anyone invent such a depressing story, and who would want to hear it?

As an adult, I still hate that story, and even more now, because I realize that when Anderson wrote The Little Match Girl in 1845, except for the bit about the grandmother, he was fictionalizing a deplorable reality he himself was witnessing. He wrote during the Industrial Revolution, when the poor were miserable and overcrowded.  Pollution from the unregulated burning of coal poisoned the air, and factories were dumping metals, chemicals, raw sewage, and other toxins into the lakes and rivers that people depended upon for drinking water.

Wages were so low that the working class toiled 12 to 16 hours a day, yet still couldn’t earn a living wage.  On the brink of starvation, they sent their children to work in factories and mines.  Many were separated from their families, left to the ‘mercy’ of strangers, working ungodly hours for only a place to sleep and the food they ate.

In 1832 it was reported, “…workers are abandoned from the moment an accident occurs; their wages are stopped, no medical attendance is provided, and whatever the extent of the injury, no compensation is afforded.”  

The wealthy were given free reign to exploit the poor. When the Industrial Revolution sparked disputes over inhumane working conditions, the government introduced measures to prevent labor from organizing. The rich got richer, the poor remained poor, and children, who were forced to work all day or starve, couldn’t get an education to help them rise from poverty.

In the USA, industrialization occurred mostly in the North, with an influx of immigrants serving as factory fodder to keep up with attrition and demand. The South had its own foul history of systemic oppression, with its agrarian economy dependent upon human slavery.

Over time, Americans have fought and died for the cause of social justice.  They organized labor unions, which brought an end to child labor, shortened the work week, and ushered in workman’s compensation for on-the-job-injuries. They are still trying to negotiate a living wage.  Public education, Social Security, Medicare, Affordable Healthcare have all helped to even the playing field and a provide a social safety net.  Civil rights, women’s suffrage, Affirmative Action, environmental protection have, too.

We still had a long way to go to overcome class, gender, religious, and racial discrimination, such as the legacy of Jim Crow that still exists.  Yet we saw the middle class grow, the standard of living rise, and each generation doing better than the preceding one, until the 1970s.  What in Hell happened?  Ronald Reagan, and his trickle down economics, for starters.  It has been a downhill slide since then, snowballing since the Trump administration took power.

Today there is a little match girl on every street corner.  Our democratic republic has degenerated into an oligarchy, bought and run by big business, with puppet strings being yanked all the way from Russia.  International treaties have been broken, environmental protections scrapped to increase company profit, families torn apart by inhumane ICE policies, cruelly punishing the innocent children of undocumented immigrants. Affordable Healthcare, Social Security and Medicare are in the administration’s crosshairs.  The three richest men in America own more than half of this country’s wealth.  Our society has regressed two hundred years to become a near perfect match for the one that inspired Hans Christian Anderson to write The Little Match Girl.  A match made in Hell.

I will always hate that story.  But we need to keep telling it, until we can pound out a new ending.  We need to keep telling it, until we never need to tell it again.

©2018 Naomi Baltuck

Posted by: Naomi Baltuck | June 12, 2018

Remembering Fort Detroit

Writing Between the Lines

Photobucket

At Isaac Newton School, my third grade Social Studies teacher walked out of The Far Side into our classroom.  Mrs. Glotzbecker was a plump middle-aged woman who squeezed into dresses suitable only for Doris Day in her prime.  She wore pointy rhinestone-studded glasses, and bleached blond hair in a French twist.  She’d taught all my big sisters, and whenever she called on me, it was by one of their names.

On the first day of class we opened our history books and read about Fort Detroit.  Our assignment was to draw a picture of it.  Every day we read aloud, then worked silently.  If Mrs. Glotzbecker caught you chewing gum, like Jerry Fink, she made you wear it on your nose.  If she caught you talking, like Jerry Fink, she made you sit in the wastebasket.  Repeat offenders felt the sting of Old Harry, the paddle on the wall.  Jerry…

View original post 422 more words

Posted by: Naomi Baltuck | May 30, 2018

Black and White (or not)

Writing Between the Lines

A black and white photo is light and dark, its sharp contrasts easy on the eye.

Perhaps black and white is easier on the mind as well.  No difficult decisions, no wavering, no questioning right from wrong.  But real life is in color, with many subtle hues and shades.  Condemned prisoners who crossed over The Bridge of Sighs in Venice got one last peek at their beloved city.  Did they see their world in terms of black and white, or in color?  Perhaps one’s perception depended upon whether one was looking in or out, whether one was coming or going. It is easy to cast judgements, until you have walked a mile in another person’s shoes, looked into her eyes, heard his story.  The world is not black and white.  It is the color of flesh and blood, with many gray areas.  What is the color of a human tear?

View original post 61 more words

Posted by: Naomi Baltuck | May 20, 2018

After All!

It’s still true today!

Writing Between the Lines


‘The Poet’ by Constance Baltuck

I am not exaggerating when I tell you my sister Constance is a famous Alaska artist.  After all, she has a show hanging in the Alaska State Museum at this very moment, with several of her paintings in its permanent collection.  She was also just invited to show at the prestigious Artforte Gallery in Pioneer Square in Seattle.  (BTW, my walls are decked with early Baltucks, and Con has promised me their value will skyrocket after she dies.)

She felt these opportunities had dropped into her lap out of the blue.  But how many paintbrushes did she wear out preparing for this ‘sudden’ success?  For thirty years she has steadily produced beautiful art, selling out show after show.  The key phrase here is “After all…”  Yes, after all the hard work and promotion and never never never giving up, she has ‘suddenly’ hit the big time.

On the other side of the…

View original post 250 more words

Posted by: Naomi Baltuck | February 3, 2018

Flowers (are like people)

Writing Between the Lines

Each flower…

IMG_1642

…is a miracle of nature…

IMG_4808.JPG
…a work of art.

IMG_5611.JPG

They are like people.  Each one shines on its own.

 

IMG_5573.JPG

But it is through contrast..

Italy plus 075

IMG_4479.JPG

…or complement….

IMG_2841

Canon20D- 384

…and through interaction…

IMG_1519.JPGBJsldSevenBaltuckAndBenTheDog 001IMG_2176IMG_1560.JPGIMG_1985.jpgIMG_0368.JPGIMG_5158.JPGIMG_6038 2IMG_4446

…that we truly shine.

 

 

img_7151

All words and images copyright 2018 Naomi Baltuck

View original post

Posted by: Naomi Baltuck | December 16, 2017

Looking for the Light

The things I used to write about–travel, photography, family fun–seem trivial as I watch my country die the agonizing Death by a Thousand Cuts.  It’s like staring into the sun when you know you should look away–what little I write these days always seems to circle back to Trump and the Republican Party, as they rip apart the fabric of my homeland.  Like 72% of all liberals, I suffer from an actual phenomenon called Trump Anxiety.  We feel helpless as we watch our social safety net destroyed, people marginalized, the poor made poorer while the obscenely rich are fed even more wealth and power by a corrupt government.

Once again I find myself writing about the agony of impotence, but it is to offer a suggestions on how to stay positive in these dark times.

Carry a camera wherever you go; search for beauty to photograph, and you will find it, even in the dark.  

 

Find comfort in a single ray of sunlight.

 

Get outside and let the soothing sensations of the natural world calm you…

 

…even in the rain.

 

Seize a moment of peace in the simplest of pleasures.Painting by Andrew Wyeth, currently on exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum.

 

Like the sharing of music…

…or laughter…

 

…or a story.

 

Even just a cup of coffee.

 

Be social, even if it means stretching yourself…

 

 …and you will probably be glad you did.

 

If you need to escape, always have a good book in hand, and the next one in mind.

 

Patronize businesses that embrace your values, and thank them before you leave.

 

If you can’t affect what happens in the White House, you can still help make your community a safe and welcoming place for everyone.  The local library is a good place to start.

 

Help organize and participate in programs, events, and activities to make a difference where you live.

Eva Abram, Roger Fernandes, and Allison Cox tell stories of Self and Solidarity.

 

Join your Neighborhood Action Coalition.  If you don’t have one, search out like-minded people and start one.

To alleviate the feeling of helplessness, speak out whenever you can…

 

…however you can…

 

…wherever you are.

 

You will discover that you are not alone.

 

Anger eats away at you from the inside.  Love is better for your health.

 

Give thanks for what you have, and don’t lose hope.

 

Especially this time of year, it is customary to push back the darkness and
celebrate the light.

It is there.

 

It is there.

 

It is there.

 

And keep in mind the words of King Solomon, who said, “This too shall pass.”

 

©2017NaomiBaltuck

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: Naomi Baltuck | October 10, 2017

Press Play

Last month I took a road trip with my kids Elijah and Beatrice, my sister Constance and her daughter Jane.

All roads lead to Grand Teton National Park, or they ought to.

We’d heard that Teton Pass might be closed due to wintry weather, and that temperatures were dropping below zero at night.  We decided to try and squeak in a quick visit before winter arrived, and were so glad we did.

The National Parks are among this country’s greatest treasures, but Grand Teton is the jewel in the crown.

It teems with history…

…and more history.

Wildlife…

…and more wildlife.

And beauty.

So much beauty.

Like my four sisters before me, I studied geology in Jackson Hole at the University of Michigan’s Rocky Mountain Field Station. I became a dedicated pedestrian, and spent a season hiking the trails in the park while waiting on tables in Colter Bay.  For more than fifty years it has been a place of pilgrimage for our celebrations and family reunions, as it has surely been for others.

Some things never change.

The town of Jackson has mushroomed, with strip malls and box stores everywhere.  Its old-fashioned drug store soda fountain has been turned into an overpriced rug store.  But Grand Teton National Park is as pristine as ever.

Every day, as we drove to a new trailhead, we popped a CD into the player and sang along, practicing our yodeling with Roy Rogers, Bill Staines, and Ranger Doug.  Every night after dinner, out came a bottle of wine and the musical instruments, usually in that order.  Back in the Saddle, Don’t Fence Me In, and My Sweet Wyoming Home were at the top of our playlist.  When we sang about a home where the buffalo roam…

…and the deer and the antelope play…

…we were really feeling it.

It had been years since the cousins had met up.  They were a little shy at first, but there’s nothing like making music to break the ice.

Music, for many of us, has come to mean the pre-recorded tracks on CD, iTunes, or the radio.  We experienced the joy of playing music, however imperfect, and being part of a creative endeavor larger than just ourselves.  It helped us tune into the soundscape all around us, ever changing and shifting…

…yet timeless.

©2017NaomiBaltuck

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: Pedestrian.

.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: Naomi Baltuck | August 31, 2017

Eclipsed

Nearly a year ago, when we first learned of the solar eclipse, most motels in the Northwest Totality Zone were either booked, or charging up to $750 for a room.  So we reserved a B&B in the Eastern Oregon town of Moro, a forty minute drive to Totality. As the day approached, epic traffic jams of eclipse chasers were reported.  We left a day earlier than we’d planned, taking two days to travel 270 miles, with emergency gear: food, water, sleeping bags, gas can, a read-aloud book and our Kingston Trio CDs.

Traffic on I-5 was heavy, but we traveled east over the Cascades, cruising the speed limit, and sighting only the occasional RV heading to the Totality Zone from Yakima.

All the guests at our B&B were eclipse chasers.  There were two couples, first-time viewers up from California, and a German couple, first-time visitors to the US, who had crossed an ocean and a continent for a ninety second peek at a natural phenomenon they’d seen many times before.  I took that as a good sign.

Moro’s population is 316.  Its only cafe had gone belly up, and the market closes early on Sundays, but the local history museum was open.  We picnicked and were playing board games in our room when Thom discovered on Facebook that college friends were also staying in Moro at the only other accommodation in town, just a five minute walk away. Lona and Scott were as enthusiastic about the eclipse as you’d expect a science teacher and a librarian to be, and they had spent the last two days scouting out the best view spots. They invited us over, pulled out their maps and notes, and suggested a place just south of Shaniko, for its off-road parking and territorial views.

Taking no chances, we allowed four hours to travel the 38 miles into the Totality Zone. Rising at 5AM, we learned that the other guests were long gone. But the roads were clear and we were halfway there before the sun rose.  At least sixty people were camped at our viewpoint, with more arriving all the time. The buzz of excitement filled the air, though the eclipse was still two hours away.  One youngster kept a faithful watch, but I dozed, catching snatches of conversation between friendly strangers.

Finally the moon’s shadow began to pass over the face of the sun. Through protective glasses it looked like a sky cookie, with a bite taken out of it.

There was a drop in temperature and a subtle change of light.  We couldn’t tell over the noise of the crowd whether the birds stopped singing, but the people-watching was superb compensation.  For an hour, the moonshadow inched across the sun, its effect hardly noticeable, except through protective glasses. Without them, even with just a sliver of the sun peeking out from behind the moon, its light was blinding.

All at once, darkness eclipsed the world.  It was as if a one-eyed sleeping giant had suddenly awakened, and the sky was staring back at us.

The crowd erupted into wild cheers, and Thom and I shared their exhilaration.

I’d seen it depicted on canvas, demonstrated in planetariums and National Geographic specials. But seeing a total solar eclipse with my own eyes was like hearing ‘Ode to Joy” sung by a heavenly choir after seeing only the musical notation on paper.

(Ivan Generalić: Solar Eclipse, 1961, CMNA )

Our dear Sol had pulled off his glasses and shirt to reveal his Superman costume. Ninety seconds later–it felt like the blink of an eye–the sun emerged from the shadow.

We took a deep breath, hugged each other, and hit the road, hoping to beat the crush of outbound traffic. We were elated as we drove north, verbally processing the experience. We both questioned whether we’d used our few precious seconds wisely. Ironically, Thom regretted not taking a single photo, while I wondered if I’d made a mistake by placing a lens between myself and an awesome once-in-a-lifetime-celestial event.  Thom knew just what to say.  “Argentina in 2019.”  Yes, please!

A friend asked, half joking, if the eclipse had changed my life. Maybe. Especially if we go chasing the next one, which will appear in the Argentine sky in 2019.  Meanwhile, there is a whole lot of Awesomeness right here on the mother planet.

I’ve read that awe is the emotion created by an extraordinary encounter that drastically affects one’s assumptions of the world.  Experiencing this emotion can make us feel small, yet connected to something larger outside of ourselves, especially when the experience is shared by others. This was borne out in Shaniko, where traffic bottlenecked at the crossroads with the only stop sign in town. Traffic on the big road had the right of way. I feared we’d be at a standstill for hours waiting for an opening.

Then some generous soul hit the brakes and gave cuts to a person who was stuck at the stop sign, before continuing on.  The next person with the right of way also stopped to allow a car through.  They were still graciously taking turns when we reached the intersection, and were also waved on.  There was a mile of backup, but not a single horn honked, no one hollered, everyone was patient and polite, and we all moved forward together.  It was an awesome display of human nature.


 

There are other kinds of Awesome that sneak up on you.

Again.

And again.

These days we live under a dark shadow that has eclipsed our country, and the planet too.  Instead of chasing shadows, it feels like we’re trapped in the dark, fumbling for the light switch. I found the light when I accompanied family and friends to the Women’s March in Seattle last January.

I was awestruck.

 And I was not alone.

The solar eclipse did not move me to tears.  But I couldn’t hold back tears of relief and wonder at the sight of 135,000 people speaking up for equality and compassion, and speaking out against oppression, bigotry and hatred.

Tears flowed again.

And again.

And again.

If it’s a Solar Eclipse that fills you with awe and purpose, you need only wait a year or two, and somewhere on this planet there will be a next time, another chance. But in the United States, if you’re looking for an extraordinary encounter, or want to feel a part of something larger than yourself, if you want to be more than an observer, you’d better start now.  Because in a year or two, who knows what will be left to save.

We can’t sit on our hands hoping no one will get sick, or disenfranchised, arrested, abused, deported, or thrown into a concentration camp for no good reason. Our national parks, our environmental protections, our healthcare and social safety nets are being systematically carved up and sold to the highest bidder. Our politicians and our elections seem to be for sale as well. Our civil rights, our human rights, our right to protest in our own defense–these too are endangered by the deranged sociopath in the White House. We can only hope he won’t get into a pissing match with another tyrant and launch us into nuclear war.

We have no special protective glasses for this unnatural phenomenon, but we can’t afford to look away.  It’s time to tear off our glasses and invoke our inner superheroes. Our superpowers will be to speak for those who have no voice. To protect those who cannot protect themselves. To organize, educate, donate, speak out, rally and march.

Again.

And again.

And again.

And again.

And again!

This isn’t a solar eclipse; there are no do-overs.  I’m keeping the glasses, because I want to be prepared for the next big event.  2019 will be here before we know it.

And so will 2020.  

All images and text ©2017NaomiBaltuck.

 

 

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »

Categories